What’s up in Aotearoa NZ

Central government

There are at least two government bodies with an interest in participatory and deliberative practices. One is the Public Services Commission, designated as the New Zealand contact for the Open Government Partnership (OGP) which New Zealand joined in 2013. There is a website devoted to OGPNZ , which is maintained by the Public Services Commission. However, the strand of the OGP which concerns participatory practices has been passed to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC). Currently (Sep 2020) there is a section in the DPMC Policy Toolbox which addresses the use of citizens’ juries. This section was drafted in Aug 2017, and is, I believe, due to be updated as part of the current OGP National Action Plan. 

Under the current, third, National Action Plan there are are a number of commitments. The one relevant here is Commitment 5: Public participation in policy development. The latest progress report on this commitment covers the period January to June 2020, and the effects of Covid19 on progress. There is now a revised set of milestones and completion dates. The milestones that will be in interest here concern the identification of a ‘live’ policy issue in which to trial public engagement in policy development that is higher on the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation than inform or consult, as a demonstration project. This milestone is now due to be completed by December 2020. Following from this the DPMC intends to  disseminate widely the results of the above actions, starting in December 2020 and finishing in June 2021.

However, there is a possibility that the trial and the dissemination of the results are intended for the civil service only. It is not clear.

The other government body with an interest in public participation is the Department of Internal Affairs, which has on its website links to a number of internal publications on  good practice in participatory processes. The Department also recently commissioned a research report on Participatory Practices in Local Government which was presented in December 2019.

The DIA also, through the digital services wing of the Government Information Services, thinks about the contribution that such services might make to engagement with the public. In March 2018 they produced a report on this.

Local government

Under the Local Government Act, local authorities are required to produce policy documents for their interactions with the public. The only one I have seen is Auckland Council’s Significance and Engagement Policy, which was published in December 2014. It would be nice to have a review of progress and an update.